Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize of the City of Duisburg and the Rhineland Regional Authority


The Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize is a prestigious award in the fine arts and one of the few prizes to be bestowed specifically for sculpture. The prize was first bestowed in 1966 on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s (1881-1919) birthday.

The Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize is awarded to artists who have played an outstanding role in the development of sculpture. “In memory of sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck, who was born in 1881 in Duisburg Meiderich, as an incentive for living artists and to promote cultural relationships between Germany and other countries“, the prize is usally awarded every five years. However, between 2006, when the prize went to Reiner Ruthenbeck, and 2017, when the artist Rebecca Horn was honored, there was a long break of 11 years. Thanks to the support of the Rhineland Regional Authority (LVR) the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize will now be bestowed on a regular basis again. Most recently Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller were awarded with the internationally renowned prize.

Rebecca Horn being awarded with the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize on November 24, 2017 (from right to left: Lord Mayor Sören Link, Head of Cultural Affairs Thomas Krützberg, Joachim Satorius, Chairman of the Moontower Foundation, and Söke Dinkla, director of the Lehmbruck Museum), Photo: Frank Vinken


Just how much the prize means to the artists is best expressed by them in the following quotations. In 1986, in the now legendary speech given on the occasion of his being honoured, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), for example – just 11 days before he died, expressly thanked Wilhelm Lehmbruck, whose oeuvre he revered and whom he described as his teacher: “So I got this little book quite by chance, [...] turned the page, and saw this sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, and I immediately had the idea, an intuition: Sculpture – you can do something with sculpture. Everything is sculpture, the picture seemed to be telling me. And in the picture, I saw a torch, a flame, and I could hear: Protect this flame!” American sculptor Richard Serra (born 1939), by contrast, saw the award of the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize to him in 1991 as proof of the openness of the German cultural world. In his acceptance speech he said: “It is indeed ironical that here in Germany I am honoured with the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize, while in my own country the government destroyed one of my works. [...] Other American artists, particularly of my generation, have experienced support and openness here that is not to be found in the United States. That did them good, and it was no coincidence.”

Winners of the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize:

1966 Eduardo Chillida
1971 Norbert Kricke
1976 Jean Tinguely
1981 Claes Oldenburg
1986 Joseph Beuys
1991 Richard Serra
1996 Richard Long
2001 Nam June Paik
2006 Reiner Ruthenbeck
2017 Rebecca Horn
2020 Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

You can find out more about the prizewinners here.